When was the last time you remember really asking yourself if the New England Patriots were in trouble after three weeks?
2012 is not the time to start.
Yes, Brady and the Pats are 1-2 and below a .500 win percentage for the first time in over nine seasons. Yes, Aaron Hernandez is out with injury and yes, Bill Belichick's coaching magic seems to have worn off of late.
Yet, looking around at the other competition in the AFC and even the NFL at large, I believe New England is still one of the five best teams to take the field in 2012.
Considering the following three reasons, Pats fans have little to worry about Brady and Co. this season.
Brady and Belichick
Say what you want about age—the fact remains that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are proven as one of the best coach-quarterback tandems of all time. The two have reached five Super Bowls and won three; their dominance of the AFC East over the last decade is enough experience to lean on.
This year, the Pats have brought back offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. As Brady and McDaniels get re-adjusted to being together, New England's offensive flow should improve.
The moral of the story: Trust in your leaders. Brady will command a strong offense as usual and Belichick will have the defense just good enough to get by.
As it stands on September 29, the Patriots are in third place in the AFC East, behind both Buffalo and the New York Jets. If they were instead looking up at the Steelers and Ravens, there would be more cause for concern.
Quite simply, Brady's competition is led by the likes of Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill. The Pats may not have the best defense, but Belichick and Co. should be able to draw up a plan to stymie all three divisional opponents.
When it all shakes down, New England should coast to an AFC East division title and an automatic birth into the playoffs. The biggest reason to sweat early-season losses is that they will affect home-field advantage come playoff time.
While early-season struggles are cause for concern, the season is long enough for the NFL's most powerful franchises to make adjustments.
Truthfully, fans would like to see their teams explode out of training camp with perfect chemistry and no kinks in the game plan. Yet, as with anything, it is reasonable to expect spontaneous bumps along the journey.
In my opinion, this Patriots team needs to be tested early and often. After two tight Super Bowl losses to a hungrier New York Giants team, Brady and the Patriots should be playing with a greater sense of urgency.
Maybe an early-season wake-up call is what this team needs in order to stay focused for the long-haul.
Fans, have faith in the troops that Belichick has at his disposal and the fact that he'll have them ready during crunch time. The Pats have been pushed around a bit to start 2012; expect them to start fighting back sooner rather than later.
Week 4 in Buffalo is a great time to start.